Across the street from the historic Greene County Courthouse, which is home to the Mahanay Memorial Bell Tower and an impressive statue of President Lincoln, is a great pair of examples of the creativity, resilience, and out-of-the-box thinking that has me quite impressed with the community of Jefferson.
Like a lot of communities of similar size in Iowa, Jefferson does all the fundamentals well. However, they also have gone above and beyond to set themselves apart in a number of ways. Sure, it helps to have Iowa's newest casino and a unique bell tower...but they are really putting in the attention to detail to truly make their town stand out.
Across the street from that statue of Lincoln is a great example of this focus: Sally's Alley and Sensibly Chic.
Admittedly, when I first heard about Sally's Alley, I was intrigued but somewhat skeptical. They made an alley between two downtown buildings into a park of sorts? Yes. That's exactly what they did. And it has been very nicely done.
According to the Jefferson Main Street website, "Greene County native Sally White is honored with Sally’s Alley on the south side of the square in Jefferson. Her photography of the birds found in her very own backyard are displayed in the window wells of the Lincoln Building. The alley is also home to poetry and a free lending library. Several benches invite people to linger in the alley."
Many other towns might not think to use the alley to create a tourist attraction but Jefferson is thinking outside-the-box. That same space could easily be filled with a few dumpsters - but instead it is a beautiful urban-style park.
There are some beautiful flowers and plants that are maintained by local Master Gardeners.
As noted above, there are a few benches and one of those free tiny libraries that seem to be popping up all over.
Everything in the alley - from the steps to the second floor of the building to the decorative light poles are all professionally finished.
There are even nice sign stands that tell you a little bit more about the beautiful photographs you are looking at.
All of it goes along well with the other nice community markers that have been placed around the town square. Each planter box has information about one of the many historic persons or notable stops from around the county. Here are just a few of the examples:
Literally right next door to Sally's Alley is another great example of the momentum that exists in Jefferson. Sensibly Chic is a relatively new retail store that has gone into a downtown building that was in very bad shape. The owner of the store mentioned to me that a lot of work went into renovating the building. However, now it is an absolutely beautiful store with a fantastic assortment of fun finds.
From great furniture to art and just about everything in between, Sensibly Chic is definitely a store that is a lot of fun to wander around in. It's also probably one of those stores that will have something fun and different every time you walk in.
I was tempted to buy this "time out" chair.
With a ceiling like this and the beautiful hard wood floors, I am so glad to see this building has new life.
My friends and I had a full day in Jefferson.
Without a doubt, the signs on the Main Street were not wrong.
We truly did have a lot of fun in and around Jefferson and that is because the town has been working very hard to make itself a destination. Many other communities in Iowa would benefit from this kind of focus and hard work.